Salvatorian Fr. David Bergner made a ripple in downtown Milwaukee Nov. 29 and 30. Instead of dropping a pebble into a puddle and watching concentric circles form, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee spent three hours dropping quarters into nearly expired parking meters.

parking1Salvatorian Fr. Dave Bergner, executive director of Catholic Charities, spreads goodness on Milwaukee streets Nov. 29 by plugging soon to be expiring parking meters. He was performing good deeds to draw attention to Catholic Charities “Ripple” campaign. (Catholic Herald photo by Ricardo Torres)“I think we prevented a few people from getting parking tickets,” he said.

He hopes the gesture will have a ripple effect.

“If we can make a ripple within our families, within our parishes and within our cities on a small level, it should help build community on a larger level so we can tackle some of the bigger problems,” Fr. Bergner said.

To encourage doing good deeds, Catholic Charities has created a blue “Make a ripple and grow the circle” card to accompany those deeds. Drivers whose parking meters were fed found the card under their windshield wiper. A special website,, encourages do-gooders to share their stories of kind deeds online and to contribute to Catholic Charities to strengthen its circle of support for area people in need.

“I am very fond of this ‘Ripple’ campaign because it reflects a Christian tenet to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are all interconnected. It’s helpful to be reminded of that fact that one kind deed, no matter how small, can have a significant impact,” Fr. Bergner said

“Ripplers” posted on include Elizabeth, who brought bags of homemade cookies to her neighbors; Heidi, who treated a friend who is a breast cancer survivor to lunch; and Barb, who decided to “Triple her Ripple” by surprising friends with three fast-food gift cards – for their triplets.

Catholic Charities hopes these lessons will pay off with $200,000 in donations from at least 300 new supporters who will help the southeastern Wisconsin charity meet the growing need for its services. Catholic Charities helped more than 22,000 people in 2011 – a 16 percent increase over 2010 that has not lessened in 2012, according to Fr. Bergner.

Online donations made at immediately show up on a status pie graph on the webpage.

Fr. Bergner said one goal of the campaign is to make more people aware of Catholic Charities of the services it provides: Slightly more than one-third of funds support adult care ministry. This includes adult day services programs, in-home support services and ministry to people with disabilities.parking2After plugging a downtown Milwaukee expiring parking meter in an act of charity on Thursday, Nov. 29, Salvatorian Fr. Dave Bergner leaves a card encouraging the recipient to do a good deed for someone else to create a ripple effect of kindness. (Catholic Herald photo by Ricardo Torres)

Just over half of its funding is invested in Family and Children’s Ministries. This includes behavioral health services, adoptions and pregnancy support, refugee resettlement, legal services for immigrants, programs supporting parenting and Catholic school-based counseling.

About 13 percent goes to Social Justice Ministry outreach services.

The priest said the organization serves people of all faiths in the service tradition of Catholic health organizations and higher education. More than 70 percent of people served live on $5,000 a year or less.

“I can’t imagine someone doing that,” Fr. Bergner said.

Catholic Charities is headquartered in Milwaukee, but staffs offices in Racine, Burlington, Kenosha, Fontana, Sheboygan, Beaver Dam, Fond du Lac, West Bend, Waukesha and Milwaukee.

Its $5 million annual budget mainly comes from five sources: Catholic Charities’ own development efforts (27 percent); the annual archdiocesan Catholic Stewardship Appeal (23 percent), government contracts (23 percent); United Way grants (18 percent) and people aided who can afford to give something for services (8 percent).

Catholic Charities had 4,965 donors in 2011 and wants to increase its circle of support at a time when cuts to federally-funded aid to the poor may be on the horizon.

“We don’t know how many of those programs are going to be curtailed because of the national budget crisis,” Fr. Bergner said.

parking3Catholic Herald staff reporter Ricardo Torres’ car with a ticket when his parking meter expired.